What is Winter? A time to fear? A time for darkness and death? No. Winter is merely part of the endless cycle of sleep and awakening, dying and rebirth. — the now departed Josepha Sherman in her Winter Queen Speech some years ago.
I know it’s a little odd to be quoting those words as Autumn is yet to arrive here with its promise of bonfires, fresh pressed cider, of blackberries fat and tart on their prickly bushes and pumpkins still ripening on the vine, but it’s also the time of year that we get serious about getting ready for Winter. If you visit us on this Scottish Estate, someone will no doubt ask you to pitch in on some task that needs doing. So dress appropriately, have a good attitude, sturdy footware and you’ll be appreciated here quite nicely.
Now why don’t you give me a few minutes to finish up this Edition and we’ll head off to the Kitchen as the season’s upon us when the staff’s making babka, that exquisitely chocolate, rich Eastern European sweet, leavened bread along with just as tasty rugelach, both a good treat as the weather cools…
Donna leads us off a look at two non-fiction books regarding ‘the Raj, the British rule over large parts of the Indian subcontinent as she read David Gilmour’s The Ruling Caste: Imperial Lives in the Victorian Raj and Lawrence James’ Raj: The Making and Unmaking of British India, and concluded that ‘although these are both serious and well-researched history books, they are readily accessible to the general reader.’
So what does Iona and Peter Opie’s The Classic Fairy Tales have to offer that makes it worth being reprinted numerous times since its first publication in 1974? Chiefly this says Grey: ‘collected here are twenty-four of the best-known traditional fairy tales as they were first published in English. The earliest is “The History of Tom Thumbe, the Little, for his small stature surnamed, King Arthvrs Dwarfe: Whose Life and aduentures containe many strange and wonderfull accidents, published for the delight of merry Time-spenders,” dated 1621. The text from which “Hansel and Gretel” — the last tale in the collection — is taken was published in 1853.’
Michael has a look at the first two books, The High House and The False House in the Evenmere trilogy by James Stoddard: ‘Welcome to the House that God built. Evenmere, the High House, that unending ever-changing building which crosses and contains worlds. It is, and represents, all Creation, an enigma, a parable, a mystery. Within its halls and rooms, passages and basements, attics and terraces, are the undreamt worlds, the lands of dream, places like Ooz and Innman Tor and Arkalen. The House bridges upon our own world, but is far more than a house. It just Is.’ We’ve just added the first chapter of the first novel to our Words section here.
Robert brings us some comments on what might be the definitive biography of a giant of modern music, Humphrey Carpenter’s Benjamin Britten: A Biography: ‘Whatever one may think of Benjamin Britten’s place in the history of music, there is no doubt that his life provides a fascinating and insightful look into the place of the artist in the twentieth century.’
Gary reports back from the wilds of New Zealand on an exotic candy treat: RJ’s Licorice Choc Twists. ‘As soon as I bit into one, I was hooked. They’re fat little chunks of licorice twist, about 1.5 inches long, with milk chocolate filling the hole in the middle of the tube. Though soft, the licorice gives a very satisfying little “pop” when you bite into it. It’s very good licorice, though you wouldn’t call it “gourmet.” And the chocolate likewise is just good enough.’
Jennifer is without doubt a quite amazing baker as her offering this week demonstrates: ‘This cake is a real punch in the mouth—extreme chocolate and extreme lemon. Because I’m extremely lazy and because Ghirardelli makes that lovely brownie mix in a box, I use their mix, adding only an extra egg and using butter, but you can go nuts and use your own recipe. Remember that butter is your friend, beating the batter is a no-no, and flouring the pan with cocoa helps make it OMG. I serve it in very small slices with hot tea.’
We get an enthusiastic review of a somewhat unusual manga — well, considering the creator, that is. Robert says: ‘BL manga legend Youka Nitta’s Otodama: Voice from the Dead, is not BL. It’s a crime thriller, and it’s a good one.’
Brendan has a tasty recording from Finland for your consideration: ‘JPP — short for Järvelän Pikkupelimannit (” Little Folk Musicians of Järvelä”) — originally formed in 1983 as a local fiddle orchestra in the small town of Järvelä, Finland. Formed around the nucleus of 3 fiddlers, including leader Arto Järvelä, a harmonium player, and a bass player, they spent most of the Eighties and early Nineties gathering a devoted following in Finland and across the world and the reputation of being particularly inventive interpreters of Finland’s rich folk heritage. With the publication of Kaustinen Rhapsody, JPP proved itself to be excellent performers of contemporary music as well.’
Gary enjoyed Daisy’s Beauty Salon, the latest release by the Los Angeles-based band Very Be Careful, which he says plays a style of Colombian music called vallenato. ‘The song titles, lyrics and simple melodies all speak to this music’s origins as a working class dance music.’
Gary is also enthusiastic about a new honky-tonk record from Cliff Westfall. ‘Baby You Win is music you can dance to, whether a fast shuffle or a slow waltz. Electric guitars and pedal steel and high harmonies. Sad songs that make you laugh and funny songs that make you cry, quick with a turn of phrase that brings you up short.’
Jo looks at a Welsh recording, Telyn: ‘Fans of Robin Huw Bowen and the Welsh triple-harp tradition should check out Llio Rhydderch, who studied and toured with the fabled Nansi Richards. For the uninitiated, an explanation is in order. The Welsh have a drastically different style of playing, largely due to the nature of the music itself. Their music is ornamented through theme and variation, a more classical style, rather than through the sort of ornamentation heard in Scottish and Irish music.’
Richard gives a detailed review of what turned out to be a spectacular evening at Minnemeers Theater despite some preconceptions: ‘I have seen June Tabor live numerous times in recent years and I thought I knew what to expect at her concerts. I own just about every recording she ever made, the first review I wrote for GMR, when it was still Folk Tales, was of a Tabor CD and I do not expect many surprises from her performances.’
Our What Not is the time that we once asked Josepha what her favourite folk music was: ‘OK, my dear: I play the folk harp a wee bit (I’m sadly out of practice) and of the older songs, I like ‘Sumer is icumen in,’ ca. 1260 or so, by our old friend, Anonymous. I like it both for the melody and the words, which are cheerful and alive with the image of animals jumping about for the joy of it. It also makes for a cheerful round for several voices. For the earliest songs, though we don’t have the melodies, alas, I love some of the Ancient Egyptian love songs, which are downright modern — such as the one about the girl who sees her boyfriend and rushes out to meet him with half her hair still undone!. She went on to note The Ancient Egyptians had our concept of romantic love, btw, clear in their songs. There’s even a sadly fragmentary one of a wife undressing her husband, who’s passed out after what was clearly too much drinking at a party, and how she loves him even so.’
Steeleye Span’s just now gearing up for its fiftieth anniversary tour, just the British Isles this time if I remember correctly. The current lineup’s is good as any that’s existed in very long and distinguished career but today’s cut is when violinist Peter Knight (who once took extreme exception to a review we wrote) was still a member.
Our music this edition is ‘Robbery With Violins’ was recorded at My Father’s Place in Roslyn, NY on the 20th of April 1973 which means the band was Tim Hart on guitars and vocals, Maddy Prior as lead vocalist, Peter on strings, keyboards, guitars and vocals, Bob Johnson on guitars and vocals with Rick Kemp on bass, drums and vocals.